Learning Group–Parshat Vayishlach
(Haftara: Hoshea 11:7-12:13)
1. [32:4 ] “And he sent ‘malachim’ ahead of himself to Esav, his brother…” The word “malachim” can mean either messengers or angels. Rashi says that Ya’akov sent real angels to Esav, but the Ibn Ezra (Spain, 1089-1167) says that he sent human messengers. Why does Rashi prefer to make the story more supernatural? How does the story change according to each of the two different interpretations?
2. [32:7] “And Ya’akov was very frightened and terrified…” Ya’akov initiated this meeting with Esav. He didn’t have to do it. Why is he willing to suffer this much fear in order to meet his brother?
3. [32:32] “Therefore the people of Israel do not eat the “gid hanasheh” which is in the thigh until the present day…” Like matzah on Pesach, this is supposed to remind us of this historical event. What are we supposed to learn from the fact that Ya’akov wrestled with the angel and won?
4. [33:10] “…I have seen your face like seeing the face of God and you liked me.” After wrestling with God (or a strong entity) Ya’akov said, “I have seen God face to face [32:31].” What does it mean to him to see God? What does it mean to him to see Esav like seeing God?
5. [Hoshea 11:9] “…I will not return to destroy Ephraim because I am God and not man…” What does God mean when He says, “I will not destroy because I am God and not man”? In the Torah, there are many times when God destroys.
[33:18] “And Ya’akov arrived at the city of Shchem shalem (whole or perfected)”.
After Ya’akov’s struggle with the angel, and with Esav and his other struggles, he achieved wholeness. A person with proper motivations is strengthened by his trials and struggles. Overcoming his difficulties is what brings about his spiritual development.
–R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, the Sfas Emes, Poland, 1847-1905.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer
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